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« Dept. of Too Damn Much Tech | Main | Two Kinds of Guys »

June 24, 2004


Dear Vanessa --

Expert foodie that you are, you're well aware of the Slow Food movement, whose international website is here and whose U.S. website is here. 2Blowhards visitor Dave Lull writes in to point out a couple of other slow-it-down movements and websites that have appeared recently. As we say in the media game, "Three examples and you've got yourself a real trend."

Here's a site devoted to a book by Carl Honore that's about the virtues of slowness generally. Honore isn't advocating anything hippie-ish or unwashed, let alone any form of hide-in-the-woods Luddism either. He's advocating something very civilized instead. "Being 'Slow'," the author writes, "means living better in the hectic modern world by striking a balance between fast and slow." Here are some facts from the book's press material:

Americans spend 40% less time with their children than they did in the 1960s; an American on average spends 72 minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car; a typical business executive now loses 68 hours a year to being put on hold; and American adults currently devote on average a meager half hour per week to making love.

Here's a q&a with the author; here's the book's Amazon page; here's a Yahoo News visit with Honore. "Living better" -- if art ain't about that, then I just lost interest. I also enjoyed noticing that Honore is a yoga fan.

And here's Dave's other find, the website of the Slow Cities movement, which seems very Jane Jacobs, as well as directly influenced by Slow Food. I'm eager to hear what David Sucher (here), John Massengale (here), James Kunstler (here) and Larry Felton Johnson (here) -- Slow types, all of them -- think of the Slow Cities movement. I notice that Kunstler's June Eyesore of the Month award (here) goes to the very speedy new Rem Koolhaas-designed library in Seattle. Kunstler makes some good jokes at the place's expense. David Sucher tours the library this Saturday and will blog about it soon after. I'm eager to read David's observations and verdict.

How not to root for these Slow developments? Careening through cyberlife while clicking on flashing buttons has its virtues and pleasures; it can leave you feeling frantic and empty too. What's all that workaday speeding-around meant to lead to anyway? Yet more speeding around? Pardon me while I collapse, then take a mood-booster.

It occurs to me that there are two Slow movements I'd like to see someone start up. First: Slow Tennis -- wooden rackets, small racket heads. Enough with the flashy monotony of today's boom-boom, stunt-centric MTV spectacle, and back to the civilized amateur's game tennis was prior to the 1980s. OK, classic tennis could be boring -- but why do we get so hung about Boring? Boredom is a close neighbor of Leisure, after all; I sometimes wonder if the Fear of Being Bored might not be the symptomatic disease of our age. And, y'know, I'll take it over Numbing -- which is what boom-boom tennis too often is -- any day. Embrace the boredom! BTW, I did some Googling and was amazed to discover that no one makes traditional wooden tennis rackets these days.

The other Slow movement I'd cheer on? Slow Lovin', an organization devoted to the savoring of soulful, poetic eroticism in a world overrun by literal-minded, button-smashing sexiness. Oh, wait: I see that there's an Italian Slow Sex website already, here. Trust the Italians, eh? I hope that whoever imports the idea to this country will do so in a damn hurry.

What Slow movements would you like to see someone start up? Let me guess: Slow Desserts. Or maybe something more targeted, like Slow Brownies? I figure that you and I are doing our part already, in any case. 2Blowhards: the home of Slow Blogging.

Many thanks to Dave Lull.



UPDATE: Dave reminds me that, in this good recent essay for the Guardian here, the critic Robert Hughes argued that what's most needed in art right now is work that slows us down ...

UPDATE 2: Here's a q&a with the founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini. Here's another.

posted by Michael at June 24, 2004


In the Cantos, Ezra Pound remembers: "Slowness is beauty."

Posted by: rex on June 24, 2004 03:35 PM

Slow Work - now that we have all this electronic help (online banking, online travel arrangements, Outlook calendars, Quick Books online, Blackberry's, yadda yadda), my bosses seem to think that I get 80 hours of work done in 40. Ha ha. Give a Working Girl a break!

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on June 24, 2004 03:35 PM

Rereading 'Ashenden' by Maugham ($1.50, couldn't resist) and being on 1/3 of the book I counted the times Ashenden takes slow baths: 8 so far. In the process of it - mental inability to build enough willpower to get up and add more hot water while the water chills down...I simpatize entirely.

Slogan of the day: Bath-yes, shower-no.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 24, 2004 04:06 PM

Also. Slow reading. This says a bit:

Reading, you could say, for COMPLETE COMPREHENSION, with deliberate slowness. There was a time in the French lycee when 20 lines of Seneca would get two hours. Such practices don't die. We slow down when learning languages. ("Philology is the art of slow reading.") Anybody trying to write also has to slow. You put yourself aside if you are trying to understand a difficult text of note. You go your own pace. You return again and again. Commonly we pretend to get things, grabbing rough gists and running.

The monastic Christian tradition of lexio divina continues to this day. Confucianists stressed reciting the classics until one understood them fully. Hundreds of times if necessary.

Spinoza had 150 books. What's 'well read' today? Quantity. Keeping up with the web, new books, new developments? The 'news'?

Posted by: rex on June 24, 2004 04:14 PM

Good lord, what a bunch of good suggestions, each one of them a possible topic for a "Slow Something" book. Where are the book agents? Good life lessons too. Wait, another inspiration: "Slow Self-Help." Hmm, doesn't quite have the necessary snap, but there's something there. "Slow Self-Improvement?"

Just ran into a Japanese "Slow Living" website, which I guess kind of blankets the entire topic, not that I can read Japanese...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 24, 2004 04:47 PM

Can you give us a quick overview of these Slow movements? Thanks.

I have to run, but I'll check back later for your response.*


* (Some might use an emoticon here, but not me; I don't have time for that.)

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on June 24, 2004 05:01 PM

LOL! A Reader's Digest condensed guide, for those on the run! Full of bullet-pointed lists, no doubt, and get-to-the-point chapter summaries.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 24, 2004 05:09 PM

Just after Smarty Jones had failed to win the Belmont Stakes his trainer was interviewed. The trainer kept repeating - as much to himself as to the reporter - "He wouldn't settle, he wouldn't settle."
He wasn't able to find his rhythm: that slow place inside that would have made him the fastest horse that day.

Posted by: ricpic on June 25, 2004 07:22 AM

Michael: "Full of bullet-pointed lists, no doubt, and get-to-the-point chapter summaries."

And blow-quotes, and sidebars, and pictures with call-outs.*

Especially the pictures with call-outs.


* I'm pretty sure you could sing that to the tune from "My Favorite Things".

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on June 25, 2004 11:42 AM

Here's my very inadequate translation attempt of one incredible Russian poem on this - and other, related - topic.
(Transported here from discussion on "two types of guys", but really on sexes particularities and expectations, above)
This poem is famous as lyrics for a song, which you can listen to on this site. Scroll down to number 32 and click on the sound icon.

I only had time to translate part I, and tried to keep the meter and to be close to the original. Sorry for my bad English.

So, Yuri Levitansky, 1999

Thatís all thatís needed is to peer,- Oh, my God,
Thatís all it takes Ė to peer closely Ė and to notice,
And youíll not leave, and there is no place on the whole Earth
Where you can hide from sudden depth of those eyes.

Thereís all thatís needed is to read in,- Oh, my God,
Thatís all it takes to slow down on that sentence,
And hesitate without jumping to the next one,
Not turn that page but pause, and think, and read again.

If not- well, I regret youíve missed the line.
But line remains, in silence waits to be discovered.
Her day will come. Time is conserving, growing power
Of lines, - and everything whatís happening to them.

Not so with eyes Ė eyes will desert forever you
Like some obscure land thatís never found,
Like some obscure Rome thatís not uncovered
And there is no time to uncover, thatís the drag.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 25, 2004 03:50 PM

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